BETHESDA, Md. – Five things you need to know as you prepare for the first round of the U.S. Open:
1.) Rainy days: It’s cool and drizzly here at Congressional Country Club. The precipitation is light enough to only impact players’ wardrobe choices, though.
The heavy stuff could come late this afternoon. There’s a 40-percent chance of thunderstorms between 4 and 7 p.m.
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2.) Morning glories: Graeme McDowell, Peter Uihlein and Louis Oosthuizen, winners of the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur and British Open, will be a group to watch this morning.
McDowell has had some struggles his last few times out, shooting 79 in the final round of The Players and 81 in the third round of the Wales Open. It’ll be interesting to see if the stage of a major championship magnifies or minimizes his struggles.
The other group to keep an eye on is the World Rankings-based pairing of Luke Donald (No. 1), Lee Westwood (No. 2) and Martin Kaymer (No. 3), which goes off the back nine at 8:06 a.m.
Other key morning groups: 7:44 a.m. (No. 1) – Matt Kuchar, Paul Casey and K.J. Choi; 7:44 a.m. (No. 10) – Padraig Harrington, Stewart Cink, Angel Cabrera; 8:17 a.m. (No. 1) – Ernie Els, Davis Love III, Jim Furyk; 8:28 (No. 10) Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Robert Karlsson.
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3.) Afternoon delights: Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy will highlight the afternoon wave, teeing it up on No. 10 at 1:35 p.m.
Mickelson expressed his frustration with the 10th hole earlier in the week, saying, “The average guy can’t play that hole. He can’t carry that water and get it stopped on that green.”
Despite the criticism, Mickelson said starting on the lengthy par-3 would be no problem.
“Even though it’s a tough shot, it’s really only one shot,” he said.
Other afternoon highlights include: 1:24 (No. 1) – The all-Spanish grouping of Miguel Angel Jimenez, Alvaro Quiros and Sergio Garcia; 1:24 (No. 10) – Steve Stricker, Retief Goosen and David Toms; 1:35 (No. 1) – the all-Italian grouping of Matteo Manassero, Francesco Molinari and Edoardo Molinari; 1:57 (No. 10) – Nick Watney, Lucas Glover, Geoff Ogilvy
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4.) Back in black: Don’t get too excited if your favorite player gets off to a hot start on the front nine. Conversely, don’t get too distraught if he struggles on the back. There could be a large disparity in scoring between the two sides, with plenty of black numbers being posted on Congressional’s back nine.
“The front nine is one of those you’d like to think you could get a couple under on,” Jeff Overton said, “and the back nine, you’d like to be a couple under going into it, and hang on for dear life.”
At 7,574, Congressional is the second-longest course in U.S. Open history (trailing only Torrey Pines in 2008), though the course won’t play to that yardage during competition. The back nine is a 3,872-yard, par-35.
The par-3 10th – 218 yards of downhill carry over water – gets a lot of attention because it presents the rare opportunity for players to start their rounds on a one-shotter. It’s followed by the 11th, a 494-yard par-4 with a lake right of the green. No. 11 plays as a par-5 for Congressional’s members.
Then there’s the 523-yard, par-4 18th, which features a difficult downhill second shot to a peninsula green. USGA executive director Mike Davis called it one of the finest finishing holes in the U.S. Open rota.
Every par-4 on the back nine is longer than 465 yards, except for No. 17, which plays a measly 437 yards.
5.) Amateur hour: There are 12 amateurs in the field, highlighted by U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein and Patrick Cantlay, the college player of the year at UCLA. Others to watch: Russell Henley, who finished 16th at last year’s U.S. Open and won a Nationwide Tour event earlier this year; Chris Williams and Cheng-Tsung Pan, who will be teammates next year at the University of Washington; 16-year-old Beau Hossler; and mid-amateurs Steve Irwin, the son of three-time U.S. Open champion Hale Irwin, and Michael Barbosa, a bond trader from St. Petersburg, Fla.
– D.J. Piehowski contributed